Mark S. Humayun, co-director of the USC Gayle and Edward Roski Eye Institute and director of the USC Institute for Biomedical Therapeutics, received the nation’s highest award for achievement in technology from President Barack Obama during a May 19 ceremony at the White House.
Humayun received the prestigious National Medal of Technology and Innovation, after a winter storm caused the January event to be rescheduled.
In a statement issued by the White House, Obama said, “Science and technology are fundamental to solving some of our nation’s biggest challenges. The knowledge produced by these Americans today will carry our country’s legacy of innovation forward and continue to help countless others around the world. Their work is a testament to American ingenuity.”
One of nine recipients of the medal this year, Humayun was chosen for his lifelong dedication to bridging medical science and engineering to restore sight. He holds more than 100 issued patents and patent applications, most in the area of bioimplants for ophthalmology. His innovative work is best exemplified by the development of the Argus II, the only FDA-approved retinal prosthesis system that allows those with certain blinding diseases to regain some useful vision.
During his remarks, the President shared details of Humayun’s journey to earning the National Medal, beginning with Humayun’s family immigrating to the United States when he was 9 years old and dedicating himself to the study of ophthalmology after seeing his diabetic grandmother lose her vision.
“(Humayun) says the moment when he witnessed someone seeing light and shapes, someone experiencing the miracle of sight for the first time in decades—those moments have been some of the happiest and most rewarding of his professional career,” Obama said. “In his words—and I think no pun is intended—‘There wasn’t a dry eye in the operating room.’ ”
“I am very honored to receive the National Medal of Technology and Innovation,” Humayun said in a statement. “Medical breakthroughs such as the Argus II come after long periods of research and development and I am grateful to have been and continue to be surrounded by teams of very talented individuals.”
The National Medal of Technology and Innovation, presented by U.S. presidents since 1980, is given to individuals, small teams collaborating on innovative systems or divisions of companies, all whom have contributed to the nation’s economic, environmental and social well-being.
“Mark Humayun epitomizes the culture and dedication of the experts at the USC Roski Eye Institute to constantly seek new solutions in the mission to prevent blindness,” said Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, director of the USC Roski Eye Institute and interim dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “One of the reasons the USC Roski Eye Institute has been ranked in the Top 10 of ophthalmology departments over the last 21 years by U.S. News & World Report, is because of the innovative stars in our constellation like Mark who help guide and inspire us. As only the third USC recipient in 30 years to receive this prestigious honor, we are tremendously proud of Mark.”
Humayun merges medicine and engineering to focus on developing treatments for the most debilitating and challenging eye diseases. An expert in bioelectronics and implants for the eye, Humayun is a USC professor with joint appointments in ophthalmology, cell and neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and in biomedical engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. He holds the inaugural Cornelius J. Pings Chair in Biomedical Sciences.
He is president-elect of the American Society of Retina Specialists, the director of the National Science Foundation and the principal investigator of a California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) disease team grant involving a multi-university consortium to develop a stem cell implant for age-related macular degeneration.